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Volume 408: debated on Thursday 3 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on progress in establishing the office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People. [122351]

I am pleased to state, that on 26 June 2003 Mr. Nigel Williams was announced as the first Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland. Mr. Williams is currently the Chief Executive of Childnet International, a registered charity set up in 1996 that specialises in protecting children from abuse on the Internet. He will take up post as Commissioner on 1 October 2003.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made towards establishing an older people's rights commissioner in Northern Ireland. [122352]

The Government are committed to the on-going promotion of the rights of older people in society. As a result of a consultation exercise on future issues to be addressed through the Promoting Social Inclusion (PSI) initiative of New Targeting Social Need (New TSN), the NI Executive's Programme for Government committed us to opening new channels of communication with organisations that represent older people to identify the developing needs of older people, and to consider how our services can best be provided in appropriate and accessible ways.A PSI working group was established in October 2002 to assist in developing a strategy for older people. The working group is made up of representatives from NI Departments, the wider public sector, the voluntary sector and organisations representing older people such as; Help the Aged, Age Concern and the Age Sector Reference Group. The Northern Ireland Executive agreed the terms of reference and membership of the working group.The Working Group will consider factors which cause older people to be at risk of social exclusion, and develop a co-ordinated strategy through which relevant agencies will work together to tackle them.The working group held a conference on 28 March "Ageing in An Inclusive Society" to explore the issues affecting older people. Approximately 100 people attended for the statutory, community and voluntary sectors. The issues raised will inform the development of the strategy.The Working Group will develop a draft policy and strategy document for public consultation, setting out clearly defined recommendations as to what preventative and other measures are required, by whom, and within what timescales, and other mechanisms to be put in place to evaluate effectiveness and ensure progress. At this early stage it would not be appropriate to speculate on the likely nature of the recommendations.